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Joy division

COLBY COSH on the unquantifiable happiness of Canadians


 

When someone asks you “How ya doin’?”, do you answer “3.5, thanks”? If you do, you may be impressed by that new Centre for the Study of Living Standards paper claiming to have measured happiness in various parts of Canada and inferred the social and economic factors that determine it. The study features a great deal of impressive mathematics, but at heart it’s predicated on the idea that “3.5” makes complete sense as an answer to “How ya doin’?”. The dataset pretty much consists of the results of asking that question 70,000 times in various places and calling the answer “happiness”, rotating and manipulating the resulting numbers as though they were interstellar distances or commute times.

There is a great deal of excitement nowadays, among the gormless, about “happiness” research of this nature. I’ve mentioned before that I think “food miles”/”locavorism” represents one trendy, naïve attempt to create a modern-day alterna-Marxism and establish a quasi-religious standard of value not founded in economic exchange. “Gross national happiness”, which is popular with greens and Europeans looking for alternatives to odious “Anglo-Saxon” neoliberalism, is surely an analogous phenomenon. The correct public policies, you see, are really the ones that create the most net happiness, as opposed to necessarily being those that create GDP growth; so isn’t it the most natural thing in the world to just ask people how happy they are and use regression techniques to sniff out the underlying factors?

This is, after all, more or less how we find out what foods are healthy or what child-rearing practices are proper. The problem, of course, is that there are objective measurable proxies for public health or for economic well-being; there aren’t any for “happiness”, or if there are, they would involve expensive neurological exams. “Happiness” is defined in the CSLS study as “life satisfaction”, and even that semantic move is really a Evel Knievel-grade canyon leap.

The Centre found out in what parts of Canada people gave the highest average numerical answer to a life-satisfaction question on a 1-5 marketing-type hedonic scale, where “1” represented “very dissatisfied” and “5” was “very satisfied”. So how do we know the study isn’t simply measuring the relative strength of the word “very” in various regions of Canada? We don’t. (And, in fact, French speakers were presumably presented, not with “very”, but with “très”.) How do we know people are capable of reporting their subjective happiness correctly? We don’t, although we can check such reports for statistical validity and reliability. The differences between communities in the CSLS study are remarkably small: how do we know there weren’t transitory local confounders that weren’t corrected for (good weather, Habs on a win streak, etc.)? We don’t. Isn’t it true that people may report high happiness largely because of cultural predispositions to optimism or stoicism? It is. Could regions accurately reporting high temporary happiness be like Ireland—pursuing policies that promote welfare in the present at the cost of a terrible socio-economic shock later on? They could be. (Alberta-haters note: we did very well in the study.)

There is something sneakily attractive about cutting through all these philosophical questions and saying “OK, but it can’t hurt to just go out and ask people about their happiness, surely? You might find something interesting or surprising.” And you might, but you have to be responsible about it. Happiness research of this kind tends to confirm the intuition that higher incomes make “us” (i.e., many or most of us) happier only up to a surprisingly low point at which diminishing returns kick in. This is thought to be a powerful argument for the redistribution of wealth, but one must remember that when the authors of these studies mention the happiness yield from higher income, they are talking only about the yield that’s left when other factors positively correlated with income, like health and education, are factored out.

Money won’t make you happy, they say—but they’re not really referring to the whole package of benefits of having money; they’re talking about an artificially isolated, Unca-Scrooge’s-vault kind of enjoyment of money for its own sake. And guess what: money actually still turns out to be pretty damn good at making people happier, even when you do your best to reduce it to nothing but the sight of chains of zeroes in a bankbook or the ability to purchase a nice stereo.

If you don’t think money really makes people happier, try offering five-dollar bills on the street, and see whether your wallet runs out before folks stop taking the cash. The gross-national-happiness proponents will be tempted to reply that the results of such an “experiment” may reflect a delusional, unhealthy, socially cultivated preoccupation with money; in other words, they’re willing to accept self-reports of people saying “I feel about a 2 today”, but totally unwilling to accept the gold standard of revealed preference. This is economics upside-down, all right: as along as it yields the political result you want, real-world human behaviour can be dismissed as socially constructed, but frivolous questionnaires must be deemed to represent truths as objective as the temperature of the sun. (I don’t want to think about what fraction of the world’s social-science research I just summarized in that sentence.)

Even on its own terms, the CSLS study is a pretty flat draught. The Centre’s report says that two of the three most powerful factors influencing “satisfaction” with one’s life are self-reported mental health and self-reported lack of stress. Has someone alerted the Ministry of Duh? These terms are perilously close to synonymous with “satisfaction”; their presence in the study amounts almost to a finding that being happier makes you happier. Leaving aside the profoundly insane, most of whom can’t report accurately on interior states of consciousness anyhow, do we really have an objective standard of mental health that doesn’t implicitly incorporate happiness or the lack thereof as an endpoint? Mental health conditions pretty much come in two flavours: ones that in themselves consist of relatively intractable unhappiness, and ones that impair the reason and judgment and end up leading to unhappiness for the sufferer in the end.

It’s the same with “stress”. Sidney Crosby is under inconceivable “stress” when he’s slashing through the defence and attacking the net in a close game, but that’s not the kind of “stress” that will show up in a survey like this. Practically, only stress-leading-to-unhappiness is counted: surprise! It’s correlated with unhappiness! Where’s your neolib messiah now?


 

Joy division

  1. Colby, you just took all the joy out of happiness, which I think was either your point or your intention. In any case, I'm going back to bed.

  2. Sounds like somebody is having a "2" day…

  3. There is a great deal of excitement nowadays, among the gormless, about “happiness” research of this nature.

    Happiness research is utter nonsense. Why next thing you know, corporations will be spending millions of dollars researching whether or not people are happy with their products and services. Oops.

    • A customer satisfaction survey or product research is rather different than research into "happiness." We have an analogous process for our satisfaction with government programs known as an "election."

    • As hinted at in the article, reasons for general 'happiness' as such is hard to pin down. When people say they are "happy" with their product or service, its the same root word as "happiness" but has an extremely different meaning. Of course, what people are really being asked (preferably a medium of time after use of the product) is whether they believe their product has performed as promised and improved a specific subset of their lives.

  4. Melanie Phillips wrote a wonderful article the other day dissecting Cameron's woolly decision to spend a few million to measure Britain's happiness levels.

    " …. Of course money can't ensure happiness. But nor can the Government deliver that, either. For centuries, philosophers and other thinkers haven't even been able to agree what it is.

    What's certain is that the more anyone tries to manufacture happiness, the more elusive it becomes. The more people are told they should be happy, the more frantic and miserable they become if they are not.

    Those who most achieve happiness are those who consciously pursue it the least. It so often comes from its apparent ­opposite — overcoming obstacles or denying yourself something.

    But the Prime Minister's intention is just the reverse: to find out what people want and then give it to them.

    In the hands of government, deciding what people want can rapidly develop into deciding what they should want. And that develops into oppressive policies to change their behaviour to make sure they want the things that the Government wants them to want." Daily Mail, Nov 30, 2010

  5. Great post. Made me snort-laugh, always good.

    Don't think the head is wise, though. Just saying.

  6. "I've mentioned before that I think “food miles”/”locavorism” represents one trendy, naïve attempt to create a modern-day alterna-Marxism and establish a quasi-religious standard of value not founded in economic exchange. “Gross national happiness”, which is popular with greens and Europeans looking for alternatives to odious “Anglo-Saxon” neoliberalism, is surely an analogous phenomenon. The correct public policies, you see, are really the ones that create the most net happiness, as opposed to necessarily being those that create GDP growth…"

    These are both attempts to measure esoteric things. They may not succesd.

    But aren't you projecting just a little with respect to the motives behind these efforts? If I buy an Ontario apple rather than an imported Chilean apple because I don't like the idea of fossil fuels burned by the importer, am I an alterna-Marxist or adhering to some quasi-religion? Or is that just a factor in my decision as a consumer?

    Similarly, are you sure that the people trying to measure happiness intend to replace GDP growth with happieness growth as the key public policy goal?

    You make a strong argument that the attempt to measure happiness may produce useless data (I think your case regarding food miles is much weaker). Nevertheless, if we're able to measure these things, why do you assume they'll be forced down your throat by zealots who care about those measures above all else? Couldn't these factors simply become a part of policy decision-making? Couldn't policies be improved if they were informed with good data?

    • "…are you sure that the people trying to measure happiness intend to replace GDP growth with happieness growth as the key public policy goal?" They're not particularly shy about it. The title of the report I just spent 1,000 words blathering about is "Does Money Matter?"

      • Right. Like they say in the abstract, "We find that household income is a relatively weak determinant of individual happiness."

        They don't seem to make any policy recommendations. And your dire hints at fascist carbon footprint controls are similarly unsupported here or in your previous piece.

        You are making some pretty wild predictions that these data will become a leftist jackboot on the throat of helpless, wholesome economics.

        • "They don't seem to make any policy recommendations." Struggling through desperately all the way to page 7, we read: "This report provides strong support for the recommendations of the Stiglitz Report, which was commissioned by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and released in September 2009, to put greater emphasis on happiness relative to GDP in the development of public policy."

          • Ah, fair enough thanks.

            But as long as we're struggling, perhaps you could help me understand how that vague, milquetoast policy recommendation is analagous to quasi-religious alterna-Marxism.

            And maybe you could help me understand how the act of measuring carbon footprints leads to the same.

            Your hyperbole undermines your point here and in the previous article: that some things are hard to measure.

          • I think the point with locavorism/food miles is that it's an incomplete measure of carbon footprint. Bell peppers grown near my house require heated greenhouses with a large carbon footprint, even though the total distance travelled from the greenhouse to my table is shorter than those field-grown peppers from California. Also, the price of an item is usually a fairly good proxy for the amount of energy expended in producing it anyway. Advocates of alternative metrics usually don't seem to really understand that money is just an abstracted version of cost & value.

          • Superbly put. But it's much too long, he'll never read it.

          • I struggled through the whole thing. Sounds like he's saying that some things are hard to measure.

            Or, as I put it earlier, "some things are hard to measure".

            But – speaking of not reading – my point is that your cries of fascism, religion and neo-Marxism are ridiculous hyperbole and not supported by any of your background material. Or did I miss something – can you back up your snark with anything at all?

          • The point that carbon footprints, food miles, and "gross national happiness" are all attempts to establish alternative standards of value–ones that somehow transcend conventional economics–is not particularly hard to understand. Nor is the parallel with Marx's labour theory of value. (I don't know where "fascism" supposedly comes into it, but whatever.) Commenters often have trouble understanding this, but I am not your personal tutor.

          • That's not hard to understand at all, except for the word "transcend". A more generous reading might be that these measures of happiness and pollution might be used to augment conventional economics in policy decisions, but whatever.

            You're the one that brought fascism into the discussion which, along with your references to "alterna-Marxism" and "quasi-religion", constitute either paranoia or an epically unfunny attempt at snark. From your own piece on carbon footprints:

            "What strikes me is that as time goes by we can expect the earnest, radical environmentalists to direct ever greater quantities of their energy against namby-pamby greenwashers; I can't help wondering whether a working knowledge of the history of the European left from 1928-39 will prove unexpectedly rewarding in the coming decades."

            In your original text, you hyperlinked "the history of the European left from 1928-39" to the Wikipedia page for "Social_Fascist". But that would require one to struggle through to the last paragraph, so you can be forgiven for not knowing where the reference to fascism comes from.

          • Or, you would have to know that "Social Fascism" wasn't actually fascism–just a term of abuse for social democracy.

          • Ah, right, a certain flavour of fascism, much like Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

            But tell me again: who is arguing that alternative measures like carbon footprint or a happiness index should "transcend" conventional economics in policy decisions?

          • Colby?

            Well, this is the nut of my argument, something Colby has fastidiously avoided so far. I'm sure he's just at a dinner party, maybe exchanging witticisms with Jonah Goldberg. One the mincing is complete, I expect he'll be back here to clarify.

            I'll just wait.

          • Also, hey Colby:

            *crickets*

          • Nicolas Sarkozy, for one, has proposed it as an alternative to GDP for France and other European countries. Bhutan has adopted "gross national happiness" as its official development objective. Generally you hear it punted about in lots of places where governments have failed to deliver on strong economic growth. Politically it's easier to temporarily re-frame the argument than address the underlying issues.

          • Ok first, it's not atypical for a politician to try to change the terms of the debate. These efforts are typically short-term and irrelevant beyond the next election.

            Second, from everything I can see, Sarkozy has called for a consideration of a happiness index in public policy. That's not a call for replacement of economics in public policy, it's a call for consideration of other factors in addition to economics in public policy.

            And it's most certainly not – despite Cosh's absurd fantasies – a call for carbon footprint and happiness measures to "transcend" economics like a fascist boot forced down the throat of the innocent milkmaid of conventional economics.

            Poor Colby seems to have been huffing whatever fumes come from a putrid combination of the National Post, the Manning Institute of Rightwing Sanctimony and Jonah Goldberg's compost bin. Sad, really, he held such promise (according to Bergkamp).

    • If I buy an Ontario apple rather than an imported Chilean apple because I don't like the idea of fossil fuels burned by the importer, am I an alterna-Marxist or adhering to some quasi-religion? Or is that just a factor in my decision as a consumer?

      Since you don't like the idea of importers (or, presumably, Chileans) burning fossil fuels, but the burning of fossil fuels by Ontarians is a-okay, then it sure sounds a lot like some quasi-religion.

      • Really?

        You understand that the shipment of a tonne of apples from Chile to my local Loblaws requires a great deal more fossil fuels than the shipment from Prince Edward County to my local Loblaws. You understand that it's about the volume of fuel burned, not the fact that fuel is burned at all.

        How is it a quasi-religion to believe that waste is a *negative* thing? Do you leave your front door open all winter? No? Well, do you close your door but still operate a furnace? Well, you just keep your extremist leftist religion away from me, Mr. Wild Rose Country.

        • So if you want an apple in February/March, and buy local compared to buying one freshly picked in the southern hemisphere, are you taking into consideration the energy requirements for storage?

          I can easily buy fresh fruit grown locally in season. So can you.Where I live eating local would make 1/3rd of the year eating preserved root vegetables, depleting the remaining land locked salmon stocks and maybe chewing on aspen branches.

          Anyone ragging on about how this would be sustainable, and putting a positive sheen on it deserves any epithet thrown.

          Derek

          • "Where I live eating local would make 1/3rd of the year eating preserved root vegetables…"

            Yeah, I get that. You're making the same mistake as Cosh, assuming that I want hard and fast rules established, so that Chilean apples will never be permitted, not even in the off season when apples (or cherries or whatever) would otherwise not be available.

            My point has always been that the carbon footprint of a product should be one factor in a consumer's choice. NOT that some leftist fascist regime should decide what you can have, based on the new alterna-Marxist religion of The People's Carbon Footprint Index.

            Sheesh. Such is the impact of an airless, black-and-white rightwing view, I suppose.

            Lemme ask you: a big part of the fuel savings in hybrid vehicles can be attributed to their realtime fuel consumption meters. These tell the driver how much fuel they're burning at any given moment, and tend to affect driver behaviour in favour of more fuel-efficient driving habits.

            So: are these realtime fuel-consumption meters ultimately socialist in their very nature? They attempt to introduce a measure of value disconnected from pure economics, and would likely be described by the hapless Cosh as "gormless:".

        • The volume of fuel burned in one specific subset of the seed-to-stomach chain, for an arbitrary unit of measure you mean. Chilean apples use far less fossil fuels to plant, to harvest, to package, and to warehouse than PEI apples. They also spread the "great deal more" fuel costs over a greater number of apples in the Chile-to-Canada leg of that apple's journey. In the end, the slow boat from Chile represents only a fraction of the total "footprint" of that apple. And while the "transportation toe" aspect of that footprint is bigger for the Chilean apple, the overall footprint is typically far less. After all, the damned thing was grown in Chile.

          So that fuel is burned at all is an important point: the PEI apple grower burns hundreds if not thousands of gallons of it a month. The Chilean apple grower likely burns less than a couple dozen litres. Start factoring in the higher farmer/apple ratio in PEI, and suddenly it should become clear that transportation is a correction factor.

          Waste is indeed a negative thing, and if you believe people in PEI using carbon going about their lives is a "waste" than you should stand up and be against it: demand all farming in PEI shuts down and becomes outsourced to the third world. That Chilean apple you walk by is the best damn apple that Loblaws stocks. You should feel proud every time you take a bite out of it. Unless, of course, like some quasi-religion you consider PEI farmers are more "holy" with a divine right to burn carbon that mere sea captains possess not.

          • Ok, considering you're from Alberta, you may not know the difference between Prince Edward COUNTY and Prine Edward ISLAND. It's not like there's some sort of online "wiki encyclopedia" that could clarify.

            Prince Edward County is where I grew up, and a very short drive from Toronto, like two hours.

            Beyond that, you have completely failed to make the case that a Chilean apple, before transportation, has a significantly lower carbon footprint than an Ontario apple. All you've done is make the claim that Chilean apples are less energy-intensive and wholesome than Ontario apples, without any sort of supporting evidence.

            So: bullsh*t.. I never demanded that Prince Edward Island (nor Prince Edward County) farmers cease operation, despite your paranoid projections to the contrary. And any claims on your part about "quasi-religion" are so far from supported that they say more about you than they do about anybody else.

          • Ok, considering you're from Alberta, you may not know the difference between Prince Edward COUNTY and Prine Edward ISLAND. It's not like there's some sort of online "wiki encyclopedia" that could clarify.

            Everyone east of Lloydminster is a Newfie. Distinction without difference. Go plug that into a Wiki.

            Beyond that, you have completely failed to make the case that a Chilean apple, before transportation, has a significantly lower carbon footprint than an Ontario apple.

            Which one costs more? Quick, anybody who has a supermarket inexplicably called "Loblaws" walk into it and answer this one. Cheaper apple requires cheaper inputs which requires less carbon.

            So: bullsh*t.. I never demanded that Prince Edward Island (nor Prince Edward County) farmers cease operation

            No, you demanded that instead people overwhelmingly support Ontarian grown apples. Yet you apply arguments that, if they actually had merit (they didn't), would result in personal preference/public policy removing the market for Ontarian apples and shutting the industry down.

    • As far as I'm concerned, TJCook won this debate. Colby never really manages to grapple with TJs main criticisms, and often seems purposefully obtuse.

      The hyperbole and angst ridden resistance to the very obvious relevance of the psychological state of a populace as it relates to economics is unfortunate as well.

      GDP is the key indicator it terms of raw economic data obviously. Who would argue that?

      That said, the value of knowing the general mental state of the populace is obvious: it's a key underlying factor of productivity.

      Is someone here trying to suggest that productivity isn't an important factor supporting GDP? LOL

      Okay, so maybe some people are intent on using it as a fuzzy-feel good stat to emphasize some form of marxist, socialist, raelian mindset, but since when does anyone take them seriously?

      These types of studies have practical uses and ignoring them just so you can rant about the crazies seems pretty lame to me.

      • >These types of studies have practical uses

        That is the problem. Some enlightened government somewhere is going to hire thousands of bureaucrats and limit my freedom for my happiness.

        Someone actually did once. It was called Bread and Circuses.

        Derek

  7. Happiness is over-rated and easily diminished. We each have our own antidote, I'm sure.
    Mine is the very occasional reading of Mr. Cosh.

    • Uh, do you mean an antidote to happiness or unhappiness?

      To me Colby's ever present cynicism is like kryptonite to common sense.

      There is a choice we make when we comment on something: will we present the balances, or heave to one side or the other?

      "A Cynic: A blackguard whose faulty visions sees things as they are, not as they ought to be."
      ~ Ambrose Bierce

  8. This is economics upside-down, all right: as along as it yields the political result you want, real-world human behaviour can be dismissed as socially constructed, but frivolous questionnaires must be deemed to represent truths as objective as the temperature of the sun. (I don't want to think about what fraction of the world's social-science research I just summarized in that sentence.)

    It's also mathematics, upside-down. Five categories, 1 through 5, where 3 is really a zero, one and two are something negative, and 4-5 are something positive. Changing from 1 to 3 cannot possibly be of the exact magnitude as changing from 2 to 4, or 3 to 5. But let's call them numbers anyways and let's break out the champagne if we get a mean of 3.5.

    I submit that "the insanely quantified and statistically tortured objectification of subjectivity, to perpetuate the charade that your career means something" would be a pretty good summary of a sizable fraction of the world's social science research.

    • Oh, and as to the economics:

      When you look at the social sciences "industry" and the tax-dollar funded grants tripping over themselves for this sort of bunk, methinks these people have figured out economics a whole lot better than you or I might give them credit for.

  9. Colby, your columns are some of the best popularizations of economics and social sciences out there. And many of them are highly engaging and persuasive critiques of those topics. This isn't one of them, though.

    You deserve kudos for writing a very readable column on a fairly technical regression analysis. But your two "illustrations" are totally bankrupt. The "these crazy people think '3.5' is a legitimate answer to 'how do you feel today?'!" is a great opening hook. But are you intending to condemn any and all quantifications of subjective phenomena? You can't mean that paramedics should stop asking, "If you rated your pain out of 10, with 10 being the worst pain you've ever felt and 1 being no pain at all, where would you rate this?" Also, the way you framed the question makes it seem especially absurd (including the choice of a non-round number, before you've introduced the numerical scale). But, the question, "if you could rate your happiness today on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being an exceptionally happy day, 1 being extremely miserable, and 3 being a typical day, where would you rate it?" doesn't sound strange to me at all. Nor does the idea of answering "about 3.5".

    And the line about handing out $5 bills is a funny analogy. But it doesn't actually undermine the finding that, for most people, increasing income raises utility, but at a decreasing rate.

    Anyway, you've got some really solid critiques of the methodology of this study- and many others like it. However, GDP is commonly used as THE measure of progress- and the absolute worst thing you could say about any given proposed policy is that it would lower GDP. But if you're suggesting that GDP is not a flawed or incomplete metric , you'd be at odds with most economists.

    Economists know that GDP is not perfect- but for the time being it's the best measure we've got. Yeah, this study's pretty silly. But there are a lot of us who are interested in developing better ways to measure aggregate well-being. And there are even a few of us who aren't quasi-religious alterna-Marxists.

    • 'You can't mean that paramedics should stop asking, "If you rated your pain out of 10, with 10 being the worst pain you've ever felt and 1 being no pain at all, where would you rate this?"'

      No, that's quite right. But paramedics don't typically combine your "6" with my "8" and 10,000 other people's observations for the purposes of multiple regression. Trying to figure out which Canadian city is the "happiest" is an awfully ambitious use of these hedonic scales, compared to the kind of thing you're talking about. As for GDP, I've written about its limitations before: the problem is when people start to criticize "concern for GDP growth" as a front for really criticizing "concern for economic growth".

      • If the Maclean's stabbin' stats from a couple months ago are anything to go by, its fortunate that western cities aren't judged by 10,000 people's pain complaints to paramedics.

      • "colbycosh 75p · 10 hours ago"

        Huh. Yet my direct challenge has been out there for 22 hours without Cosh stooping to reply.

        It's almost as though he has no response to my repeated challenge.

        Either that, or he's been hit in the face by an acid pie by some Merry Terrorist/Prankster. In which case I wish him a speedy recovery.

  10. The authors of the study find themselves in the quandry a great many researchers face after some threehundred years of of the initiation of the quantification project that really got it's keel in the water with Galileo's reimagining of the idealized cognitive model (ICM) of motion when he retrained his paradigmic apparatus using the ancient model of atomism as his guide. The quandry is that a good deal of the phenomenon humanity encounters that easily lend themselves to heirachicalization into primary and secondary characteristics, where primary characteristics are held to be those that correspond with the axiomatic structure of our number system, thereby affording some degree predictive capacity, have already been through the process. In short, the low fruit on the tree has been picked. Yet, in the folk theory of scientific activity, a study is deemed to be methodologically sound (aka orthodox) when natural phenomenon in question has been thoroughly re-conceptualized as matter and contains no contradictions of axioms of mathematics.

    • So, what is a researcher to do when attempting to explore an issue, such as happiness, that does not easily lend itself to the reductions of quantification? The widespread folk belief, especially amongst the various congregation of apparatus-formers seeking to obtain the the blessed state of being pronounced "scientific" by one's statistically minded piers, that any study that hasn't processed the phenomenon in question into measurable units must be considered as ancedotal and therefore rejected, gives rise to the temptation to shoe-horn quantification-resistant characteristics into containers designed to carry other types of characteristics. The study will then be rejected because of methodological failures, of which the above article is a typical refutation.

    • This isn't to say that the researchers are not onto something. Their intution, contra Cosh's fraudulent representations via the $5 thought experiment, that money is a factor but only up to a point, could produce some insights. Their error, leaving asside the methodological errors they may have made (and ShaneB seems to think Cosh has done a serviceable job in that department), is primary one of mode. This stems either from naivety or a sublimated desire for approval (that smaks of pandering) or some mixure of both.

    • Changing tacks, the long and troublesome effort to overthrow the religiously-grounded order by resorting to humanism and then scientific investigation, along with the ancilliary polictical and social uphevals only really got underway when the personality types that, when deeply insinuated into the tissue of the ancient socialogical order were making the experience of religion so insufferable as to generate the desire to rebel, read the writing on the wall and slowly metastisized themselves into the newly forming tissue of the humanist/science-grounded order. Now we face a similar grid-lock in our soceity. Instead of being harrangued from the pulpit about our failings as moral beings we are being castigated in the media because of our failings in an the application of one mode of scientific reasoning, accidentally deamed to be orthodox. Oh, the irony! 500 years of flinging cow patties at each other and nothing done to corral the cows!

  11. Nice choice of artcile title there Scoop.

    The meaning of Joy Division:

    Between 1942 and 1945, Auschwitz and nine other Nazi concentration camps contained brothels (Freudenabteilung 'Joy Division'), mainly used to reward cooperative non-Jewish inmates.[1][2] Not only prostitutes were forced to work there. In the documentary film, Memory of the Camps, a project supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information during the summer of 1945, camera crews filmed women who had been forced into sexual slavery for the use of guards and favored prisoners.

  12. Wow! You won't have to remind me not to read your column again.
    You get a 12 out of 5 on the BS-o-meter for that bunch of negative crap.
    I hope you get a lot of money for Christmas, but of course it won't make you happy – bah humbug, happiness, who needs it.

  13. Colby, why are columnists from Alberta always so cranky?

    Can't you accept that in a diverse society people might want to celebrate more than one value?

    • Celebrating values: cool.

      Trying to measure the numerical value of that which cannot be numerically valued: Dumb.

    • Yeah Colby, remember smiles are free. Except on your next trip to the Farmer's Market where you will be greeted with missiles of local produce and beaten over the head with 12-grain sticks of baguette by a mob of angry Mensheviks from Calahoo

      • If I recall from Twitter, Cosh's trips to farmers markets are exclusively made up of standing by the exit and giggling uncontrollably at the people leaving with bags and bags of foodstuffs.

  14. The state of happyness can never be measured against anything other than the state of unhappyness. Humans are only happy or unhappy in relation to each. So, I believe the question should have been : "how would you rate your overal sense of happyness (as compared to being unhappy)?"

    On such a scale, with 5 being highest score of happyness over unhappyness, I would say my happyness level to be a 4.

    :)

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